Hate Speech or Honest Debate

August 16, 2016



The other day the Daily News published the work of a freelancer who also writes for YogaCity NYC. It was an opinion piece on how noise pollution has created violent impulses in an otherwise peaceful citizen. The visuals that accompanied the story were sensational and unfortunate. 


The important thing is that the writer used her pen as a weapon against a serious problem that plagues overcrowded cities across the nation. There is no doubt that noise pollution is rampant and needs to be addressed in a public and communal way.


So far, the reaction to the writer’s words has been both congratulatory and vicious.


One response to the piece came from community activists who applauded the writer’s shining a light on a problem that has become uncontrollable in Washington Heights. The other response…over 5,000 messages, tweets and texts…many of them death threats.


Further downtown, New Yorkers are flocking to Hamilton the now uber-famous, Tony medaled musical about the life and times of Alexander Hamilton. It’s infamous not only because of creator Lin-Manual Miranda’s rap score but his decision to feature a mixed-race cast to play the Founding Fathers.


It is a powerful civics lesson on how our country began.


Debate was extremely useful for the creation of the US Constitution, and our country’s beginnings. The show highlights the two ways to settle a dispute. In a song called “The Room Where It Happens”, Jefferson invited Hamilton and James Madison into a room and they didn’t come out until they had an agreement. That agreement is The Compromise of 1790 which averted a great crisis that saved the new and fragile nation.


In a different way of settling a dispute, Aaron Burr challenged Alexander Hamilton to a duel with well-known results. Burr’s anger and vitriol had disintegrated into weapons.

Jefferson and Burr’s distaste for Hamilton were potent, but one man chose a process that saved a great nation and the other chose one that caused a death.


History tells us that one way is the path of Jefferson and one is the way of Burr. A negotiation, controlled, quiet and out of the limelight can have the power to transform a whole neighborhood. Or, there can be a public execution.


We know the better choice.

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